Neon Vancouver

In my last post, I talked about all the things I wanted to do this summer. Last week, I managed to complete the first item on my list: visiting the Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver. I’d wanted to go since I read about the exhibit in The Vancouver Sun last October, but for some reason I never seem to get around to visiting museums in my own town, even though they’re always the first place I go when visiting cities abroad.


Exhibit sign


But last week, on a typically rainy Vancouver day, I managed to make my way to the museum and soon found myself bathed in the neon light of Vancouver’s past. The Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver exhibit showcases neon signs that were prominent in the city in the 1950s to 1970s. After a movement against the conspicuous signage, neon signs were removed and fell into disuse. Now, a collection of signs are on display at the Museum of Vancouver where a young’un like me can only imagine a time when Vancouver was covered in neon.


Featured signs at Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver


Upon entering the darkened room, I immediately saw why Vancouverites had opposed the neon signs. Despite being a small room, the glare from the neon signs was almost overwhelming. Neon light bounced off of signs for everything from dry-cleaning to beauty salons. I particularly liked an oversized neon owl wearing a kilt and advertising drugstore deliveries. Evidently, it had once hung in Kerrisdale. The idea of the garish, outlandish sign hanging in the upscale neighbourhood amused me to no end.

But my favourite sign had to be the “DRAKE” sign hanging in the entryway. The prominent letters brought to mind the rapper, rather than the Drake Hotel. However, as the hotel shut down in 2007, my second thought was that perhaps the sign was for Drake Street. I hadn’t even been aware there had been a Drake Hotel. And as the sign now seems more appropriate for the musician rather than Vancouver today, it really is representative of a bygone era.


The former Drake Hotel, not the rapper.


Lastly, check out this awesome music video featuring the exhibit!


PS. In Full Disclosure: As always, the opinions and thoughts shared here are our own and honest ones. We are bought out by no one. In the spirit of disclosure, it should be noted that on this trip our entrance to the museum was courtesy of Vancouver Tourism.


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